Dining Out

Pack your appetite for a spring fling.

Alicia Hedenfield, left, Lisa Evich and Denise Coleman share a laugh and some wine before having dinner at Bistro 29 (photo by Alvin Jornada)

Backyard, 6566 Front St., Forestville, 707-820-8445, backyardforestville.com. The farmers, ranchers and fisherfolk who produce just about every ingredient of every item on the menu are listed by name — and they’re almost all from Sonoma County, and right around Forestville. This is great in-season, locally produced food, ably handled in the kitchen. The wines are local, too. On Wednesdays, a family-style fried chicken dinner is offered, and vegans will find much to like, too. When the place fills up, it gets loud, but the skilled locavore cooking helps smooth any rough spots. Reviewed 12/9/12. $$-$$$

The house pulled pork sandwich with Asian slaw and sweet fries is served at Bruno's on Fourth in Santa Rosa.  (photo by Conner Jay)
The house pulled pork sandwich with Asian slaw and sweet fries is served at Bruno’s on Fourth in Santa Rosa. (photo by Conner Jay)

Bistro 29, 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-2929, bistro29.com. We’re lucky to have a restaurant in our area that serves the food of Brittany in northwestern France. The cuisine features beautiful buckwheat crepes, both savory and sweet, with myriad choices of fillings. Brittany is known for its excellent chicken and seafood, and chef Brian Anderson makes delicious entrees with locally sourced versions of both. There’s a fine list of French and local wines, too. Reviewed 5/19/13. $$$

Bruno’s on Fourth, 1226 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-569-8222, brunosonfourth.com. The “American comfort food” that chef Rick Bruno serves is reliably well-made, nicely priced and tasty. There’s a Sunday brunch, kids eat free Tuesdays through Thursdays at dinner, and there’s a good lunch menu. Crispy fresh salads stand out, along with meaty dishes such as braised short ribs and roast pork. The short wine list is well-priced, too. Reviewed 1/26/14. $$-$$$

Centre du Vin at the Ledson Hotel, 480 First St. East, Sonoma, 707-996-9779, ledsonhotel.com. A pleasant place for lunch or light dining in the evening, the Ledson Hotel’s restaurant does a good job with steak frites, croque monsieur, and B.L.T. & D sandwiches — bacon, lettuce, tomato and duck confit. The wine list is limited to Ledson Winery & Vineyards labels, although there are three local sparklers from other producers. Desserts include crème brûlée and chocolate mousse. Reviewed 3/18/12. $$

DeSchmire Restaurant, 304 Bodega Ave., Petaluma, 707-762-1901, deschmirerestaurant.com. Here’s Sonoma County’s best little culinary secret: a French restaurant with excellent food in a well-worn building away from the center of Petaluma. The kitchen is as open as a kitchen can be, and marvelous dishes flow from it, including old-fashioned French favorites such as onion soup, steamed mussels, chicken Dijon, rack of lamb, local duck and tender steak. The desserts are luscious, and there’s no corkage fee. Highly recommended. Reviewed 6/10/12. $$$-$$$$

Flipside Bar & Burger, 630 Third St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-1400, flipsidebarandburger.com. Flipside serves a variety of great hamburgers, plus grilled cheese, Reuben, BLT, club and meatball sandwiches. Everything is made from scratch whenever possible,
and scratch means fresh, local ingredients. The owner, Nino Rabbaa, envisions Flipside as a place for a bite, a drink and a place to meet before enjoying downtown Santa Rosa’s other delights. Perfect cole slaw and fries, too. Reviewed 5/27/12. $-$$$

Flowering Tea House, 1367 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 707-775-3088, floweringpetaluma.com. Everything is delicious here, but don’t miss the house-made pot stickers. The portions are large and the flavors are fresh. It’s one of the top Chinese restaurants in the North Bay, and the menu includes dishes from several regions of China, including Hunan, Shanghai and Hong Kong along with standard Cantonese cuisine. Reviewed 4/22/12. $-$$

The green papaya salad with shrimp, pork, peanuts and basil is served at Kettles Vietnamese Bistro along Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. (photo by Conner Jay)
The green papaya salad with shrimp, pork, peanuts and basil is served at Kettles Vietnamese Bistro along Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. (photo by Conner Jay)

Kettles Vietnamese Bistro, 1202 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-528-3747, kettlesvietnamesebistro.com. Vietnamese restaurants used to be exotic, but this one shows how comfy the cuisine has become in the U.S. Serving big portions of pretty good food — not all strictly Vietnamese, with some pan-Asian — at reasonable prices is a winning formula at Kettles, which attracts a lot of families. The pho noodle soups with meats or seafood are particularly delicious. Reviewed 2/2/14. $-$$

Lulu’s Kitchen, 1313 Main St., Napa, 707-258-1313, 1313main.com. The best feature of Lulu’s Kitchen are its wines. They are not confined to California, but include some of the finest wines in the world by the glass, as flights and by the bottle. The menu is small plates of carefully thought-out and nicely prepared portions to snack on while you enjoy the wine. The décor is sophisticated and chic, the service friendly, and the ambiance relaxing. Reviewed 1/12/14. $$-$$$

Luma, 500 First St., Petaluma, 707-658-1940, lumapetaluma.com. This is a real find: an unpretentious restaurant with a feel-good vibe, great service and contemporary American cooking featuring nightly specials such as braised pork ribs and blackened catfish. The regular menu includes ancho- and porcini- seared filet mignon, chicken picadillo, and a daily “vegetarian delight,” a tray loaded with wonderfully prepared seasonal fruits and vegetables. The wine list is global and modestly priced. Reviewed 11/3/13. $$$

M.Y. China, 630 Park Court (at Graton Resort and Casino), Rohnert Park, 707-703-1955, gratonresortcasino.com. This is the second of well-known chef Martin Yan’s innovative Chinese restaurants. The food is closer to the actual cuisines of China than the egg foo yung and chow mein parlors found across America. Yan and executive chef Tony Wu insist on absolutely fresh vegetables and high quality in other ingredients. The lychee panna cotta dessert is flamboyantly delicious. Reviewed 1/19/14. $$-$$$$

Watermelon gazpacho chilled soup with jicama, serrano, cucumber and lime by chef/owner Catherine Venturini of Olive & Vine restaurant in Glen Ellen. (photo by John Burgess)
Watermelon gazpacho chilled soup with jicama, serrano, cucumber and lime at Olive & Vine restaurant in Glen Ellen. (photo by John Burgess)

Olive & Vine, 14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-996-9152, oliveandvinerestaurant.com. Glen Ellen’s reputation as a stop for fine restaurants got a huge boost when Catherine Venturini and John Burdick opened Olive & Vine in Jack London Village. Venturini and her chef de cuisine, Julie Warner, do an exceptional job exalting local and organic ingredients in their versions of Sonoma cuisine. The menu changes seasonally, but just about everything on it is worth a return visit. Reviewed 5/20/12. $$$-$$$$

Pizzando, 301 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-922-5233, pizzandohealdsburg.com. Pizzando features pizza from a wood-fired oven, but also has a wide range of appetizers, house-made pasta, and meat and seafood entrees. The pizzas, in particular, are excellent. The wine and beer list is short but sweet. Everything on the menu is available for takeout, and Pizzando is open for late evening snacking, too. Reviewed 11/11/12. $$

Ravenous, 117 North St., Healdsburg, 707-431-1302, facebook.com. Ravenous started a couple of decades ago in this small space adjacent to the Raven Theater. It moved a block away to a larger space (now Bravas Bar de Tapas) and has somewhat recently returned to its roots at the Raven. The full bar is gone but the café still serves high-class pan-American cooking. The Mexican influences stand out, especially the stuffed and roasted poblano pepper and impossibly good fish tacos. But the changeable menu has classic American dishes, too. The wine list is interesting and eclectic. Reviewed 7/22/12. $$$-$$$$

Redd Wood, 6755 Washington St., Yountville, 707-299-5030, redd-wood.com. Chef Richard Reddington, who operates the respected Redd nearby, offers this upscale pizzeria for the foodies who flock to the little town of Yountville. The pizzas are amazing, but there are also pastas, house-made salumi, fish, main-course entrees and a lineup of fine desserts, including Italian ices. Italian wines complement the food. Reviewed 3/11/12. $$-$$$$

Homemade tiramisu at Risibisi Restaurant in Petaluma. (photo by Beth Schlanker)
Homemade tiramisu at Risibisi Restaurant in Petaluma. (photo by Beth Schlanker)

Risibisi, 154 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-766-7600, risibisirestaurant.com. Risibisi is a good, northern Italian-style restaurant named for rice with peas, a favorite spring dish in the Veneto. Don’t miss the sea bass carpaccio antipasto. Pasta dishes including fettucini Bolognese and gnocchi with wild boar ragu just beg to be paired with one of the many excellent Italian red wines on the list. Entrees include eggplant parmesan, veal piccata and short ribs, among others. Good desserts, too. Reviewed 8/5/12. $$-$$$

Rosso Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar, 151 Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma, 707-772-5177, rossopizzeria.com. Rosso’s second iteration (the other is in Santa Rosa) focuses on house-made mozzarella and ricotta, some from cow’s milk and some from Craig Ramini’s herd of water buffalo in Tomales. All the pastas — a different type each night of the week — are house-made, and there’s a wood-fired oven turning out real Italian-style pizzas. Good salads, appetizers and a great wine list complete the picture. It’s a fine place for the whole family. Reviewed 9/2/12. $$

Rustic, Francis’s Favorites, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1485, franciscoppolawinery.com/visit/dine/rustic. Francis Ford Coppola needs no introduction, yet at his winery/restaurant/resort/tasting room, you’ll get one anyway. The restaurant, called “Rustic, Francis’s Favorites,” features the Italian dishes of his childhood, plus adult loves like an Argentine grill serving big portions of beef with chimichurri sauce. The wine list is mostly from his winery, and that’s OK. A wood-burning oven makes wonderful pizzas. Reviewed 11/10/13. $-$$$$

A mixed berry crisp made by pastry chef Jenny Malicki at Spinster Sisters restaurant in Santa Rosa. (photo by Beth Schlanker)
A mixed berry crisp made by pastry chef Jenny Malicki at Spinster Sisters restaurant in Santa Rosa. (photo by Beth Schlanker)

The Spinster Sisters, 401 S. A St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-7100, thespinstersisters.com. The “New American Cooking” at this superb little restaurant is healthy, with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients deftly handled by chef Liza Hinman to create refined and enticing flavors. She likes cumin in yogurt, cares enough to peel and remove the seedy parts of cucumbers, and makes many ingredients in-house, such as duck terrine, bagels and lox, and kim chi. A fine wine list offers bottles from across America and around the world. Reviewed 9/9/12. $$-$$$

Spoonbar at h2hotel, 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-7222, spoonbar.com. Chef Louis Maldonado and the bartenders at this eco-hotel serve up some of the most innovative food and drinks around. When the kitchen plays with notions taken from the world’s cuisines, the results can be delicious. Case in point: North African-influenced short rib on quinoa with mint, rings of red-ripe jalapeño and preserved citrus make a super-tasty dish. Cured fish, vegetable appetizers and pastas all have something unique going on. Reviewed 4/15/12. $$$$

Terra Restaurant, 1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena, 707-963-8931, terrarestaurant.com. For the past 24 years, Terra has set the standard for excellent quality and beautiful presentations, and continues to do so. Chef Hiro Sone is a master at pleasing the eye as well as the palate, with a menu of 22 items, from which you pick four, five, or six at varying (and expensive) price levels. But it’s worth it, because just about every item, from simple gnocchi to a combo of duck breast with duck sausage and duck liver mousse, is to sigh for. Very highly recommended. Reviewed 5/13/12. $$$$

Terrapin Creek Cafe, 1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-2700, terrapincreekcafe.com. Owners Andrew Truong and Liya Lin have fashioned one of the most charming restaurants in Wine Country, and her cooking is a shining example of locally sourced ingredients used in refined and thoughtful dishes that never fail to please. Simple soups and salads come to life. Entrees are rich and bold, like lamb sugo over pappardelle, and glazed baby back ribs. The cooking is pure Californian with a hint of French and Asian. Reviewed 3/24/13. $$$$

The Thomas at Fagiani’s, 813 Main St., Napa, 707-226-7821, thethomas-napa.com. An old downtown Napa building dating to the early 1900s is beautifully refurbished. Ground level is Fagiani’s bar with glorious cocktails. The second and third floors are The Thomas restaurant, where executive chef Brad Farmerie and chef de cuisine Jason Kupper will thrill you with the smartness of their culinary ideas and the quality of their cooking and presentations. The third floor is alfresco dining on the rooftop with views of the Napa River and beyond. Highly recommended. Reviewed 10/7/12. $$$-$$$$

Walter Hansel Wine & Bistro, 3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, 707-546-6462, walterhanselbistro.com. The refurbished room serves as a wine bar for Walter Hansel Winery & Vineyard, and a showcase for chef Philippe Colasse’s French cooking. He springs surprises, too, such as Peruvian causa (a layered potato dish) and seafood ceviche appetizers. But it’s the French classics that really sing: sous vide chicken with mousseline sauce, perfect Liberty duck rillettes, potato gratin Savoyard, sea bass in beurre blanc sauce and much more. Reviewed 2/23/14 $$$$